khayelitsha• 12 comments •
Townships in South Africa were originally formed as forced settlements for non-whites during the apartheid era.
Since then they have transformed into veritable cities of their own. The townships, as a whole, are often confused with the informal areas (i.e. slums) that are a part of it. These areas, and the whole townships themselves are often ignored and misunderstood.
Our tour guide, Jenny (of Nomvuyo's Tours), started our tour with the informal area of the township. She introduced us to several residents, took us to meet the elementary school teacher, and explained the day-to-day hardships of the residents.
As Cape Town's largest township, Khayelitsha benefits the most from visits from tourists. We met a couple, in Cape Town, who said they didn't bother with the tour because they didn't want "to do something that was depressing" while they were on vacation. In our experience the township was not depressing (we met some really interesting people), but it did reveal how much work South Africa still has to manage the countries balance of wealth.
The township is not strictly residential. It contains barbershops, grocery stores, restaurants, churches, herbalists, etc...
Children in the township have few options for elementary school. Luckily a local lady has invested her own meager funds to purchase a shack ($400, we think) to educate 2 dozen local kids. She's already purchased a larger shack to use as a schoolhouse, but is waiting for it to be finished (right now it only contains a loveseat):
We also met various residents of the township. One man was very proud to show off his newborn daughter. Another woman was celebrating her birthday with a slice of cake:
Ingenuity is a way of life in the townships. Some residents will pay for power and then resell it to their neighbours (to power satellite dishes, among other things). Nicknamed "spaghetti", the home-made infrastructure (jury-rigging cables between houses) is evident as you walk around:
The houses tend to be quite small and don't accommodate space for a bathroom, but communal toilets are available:
Jenny, our tour guide, has become friends with many of the locals and we felt that we were getting a more authentic experience than what some of the other companies may have offered. Apparently, one of the residents of the township asked why tourists wanted to see "poor people". Jenny assured her that it's not that tourists wanted to see that they are poor, but rather that we were visiting them because they are so rich in culture and community.